Dan Speech at Wortley Hall

Dan was invited to give a speech at the 2011 South Yorkshire Festival at Wortley Hall. Here is what he said...


It is great to be here at the South Yorkshire Festival and to see so many people sharing in the wonderful surroundings of Wortley Hall and its beautiful gardens. As a Member of Parliament, it is a rare treat to be invited to an event such as this and so I thank you for asking me to be here and share it with you. It is an event that reflects the somewhat colourful history of Wortley Hall.

Since becoming the MP for Barnsley Central, it has been one of the biggest privileges of the job to learn about, and now to celebrate, the heritage we enjoy here today. I have been looking at a potted history of the Hall and estate. It has been fascinating for me to learn of the military activity and use of the hall and grounds during World War II, which included a period of occupation by the US Army Air Force. Incredibly, and rather sensationally at the time, 315, mostly African-American servicemen from New Jersey were stationed at the Hall. Along with reports by the then Lord Wharncliffe, of “serious fraternization” between the servicemen and local girls, there were also tales of the troops being welcomed into local homes for tea and being integrated into the local parish church. 

Despite what you may have heard from one of my by-election opponents, this is the Barnsley I know. It is especially true that the people of Barnsley accept diversity, because as you will be aware the differences, purely between Barnsley-folk themselves, can be immense from one village to another.

This grand house is part of South Yorkshire’s identity and the special place it holds in our history is instilled in all who grew up here and leaves a lasting memory on all of those who visit. As I read the history of this place I found something that I would like to share with you. In 1639, the Poet John Taylor, reported on a visit he had made to Wortley Hall. He published the account in a book, entitled 'Part of this Summer's Travels: From Hell, Hull and Halifax' although I am certain the title did not refer to this breathtaking area of Yorkshire!

Taylor says: “From Leeds I went to Wakefield, where if the valiant Pinder had been living, I would have played Don Quixote's part and challenged him; but being it was so happy he was dead, I passed the town in peace and so to Barnsley and Wortley, to Sir Francis Wortley's ancient house.” He then goes on to tell of the “meal, drinks, money and free welcome for horse and man.” 

From what I know of Wortley Hall, over the past sixty-years, little has changed in terms of the welcome given to the weary traveller who finds himself arriving here – testament to the Yorkshire spirit which is shared amongst us and admired throughout the British Isles.

Today, we are celebrating the most recent sixty years of this illustrious history.

Indeed, I am proud to say that once the war had ended and the first Labour Government had been elected, the future path of Wortley Hall was to change completely. Because it was at this time, this rather grand house and estate was purchased by a group of activists from the Labour Movement. This group of socialists, made the house into an oasis among the coal-dust and industry, a place to be used by workers as a holiday home; opening it up to the people, after hundreds of years of nobility.

They began to reconcile the relationship between classes and establish the truth we know to be self-evident today; the Labour Party is for the many and not just the few.

The local area changed vastly, with mining completely taking over. In fact Mining was to become the paint on the canvass that was to shape our local, regional and national picture for generations to come.

Wortley Hall was a haven for workers. Now, if you had spoken with any of my campaign team back in March, during the by-election, you would have discovered that it still is just that; as many of them enjoyed a night or two at Wortley Hall while helping out in Barnsley Central. So I think it is fair to say that the legacy of those Labour activists, endures today.

It was as a result of the hard work of those activists who were here in March, that I join you today, as Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central. 

In Barnsley, I see a town that has a rich history, a proud community and the brightest of futures. Indeed, as we prepare, together, to write the next chapter in Barnsley’s story, we know that our vision is indicative of the futures craved by towns and cities across Yorkshire.

In order to make that future a reality, we must invest in economic development, we must support local businesses and help them to achieve their potential and we must embark right this second on the biggest challenge of all; raising the aspiration of our young people.

From the moment that the Coalition agreement was signed, so too was the fate of millions of children who lost the aspiration to strive for a better life than their parents had.

Across South Yorkshire, our young suffered from the removal of EMA, the scrapping of the Barnsley-inspired Future Jobs Fund and of course, by the trebling of university tuition fees. These actions gave one very clear message; the government will not help our young people achieve their potential. 

Well ladies and Gentlemen, working together with local authorities, businesses, trade unions, the voluntary sector, schools, colleges and universities, we must.

Those Labour Activists, who, sixty years ago, bought Wortley Hall, showed the true spirit of the Labour Movement.

From the moment I was elected I made it clear, a retreat to the idea that unemployment is a price worth paying is not something we can afford to happen again in South Yorkshire.  Thatcher was wrong in the 1980’s, Cameron is equally wrong now.

We have come so far.  We have made real progress. We have to raise aspiration.

But to achieve it, we must to work together. We must find new ways of inspiring our young people.  And heritage sites such as Wortley Hall provide a first class example.

That is never truer than on days like this, when the estate is opened up to all for the South Yorkshire Festival. The team here have done a wonderful job in organising an amazing day of entertainment and activities for us all to enjoy. 

So with no more delay, I will let you get on with this Festival Day and again, thank you very much for inviting me to share it with you.

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